By Carmen Navarro Gercone
My husband and I currently have custody and are raising our grandsons, ages 6 and 8. My initial response to the atrocity in Uvalde, Texas, was as a law enforcement officer. I pored over every detail as it was released and contemplated how I could prevent or mitigate this from ever happening in Cook County. Then I went home and held my grandsons. We made sure to keep the news off, but like many of you, I could not sleep that night. My law enforcement response was to consider, over and over: How could this have been prevented?
The next morning, while dropping the boys off at school, my oldest grandson heard about the shooting on the radio. It was an emotional moment, and I had to explain to him what happened.
“Why would someone shoot little kids?” he asked.
I will never know how to answer that question. I cried, and then I promised him — over and over — that he would be safe in his school.
But is he safe? Are any of us? When is enough going to be enough to initiate the changes we need?
Mass shootings have happened across our country in schools, places of worship, grocery stores, concerts and even at a congressional baseball game. They have happened in our struggling city neighborhoods and in the most affluent areas of our country. Americans are being killed with regularity: Democrats and Republicans, law enforcement and civilians, adults and children. Why is nothing being done?
I am reacting as a mother, a grandmother, a sister whose brother was lost to violence and as a law enforcement leader. I am outraged and heartbroken and having moments of complete despair thinking about the precious lives that were lost.
I have talked with many friends and colleagues across the country, and I want to share what I am hearing: From what we know so far, there was no way to prevent, mitigate or interdict Tuesday’s tragedy. There is no way to prevent this from happening again with our current laws and access to high-powered weapons.
In Uvalde, there were initial reports that officers exchanged gunfire with the shooter before he entered the school.
We’ve now been told that he entered unobstructed, wearing tactical gear before allegedly barricading himself in a classroom. He killed a young girl as she attempted to dial 911. Officers say they “received fire” when they went in to confront the shooter. He shot at least 17 people who are still fighting for their lives
He killed 19 children and two teachers.
Parents have had to identify their slain children, and others have had to submit DNA because their babies became unidentifiable because of weapons legally purchased by an 18-year-old in this country.
You cannot be a politician who claims to be “pro-police” and expect us to respond to calls when we do not know if high-powered weapons are on the other side of the door.
You cannot be a politician who claims to be “pro-life” and support AR-15-style rifles being readily available to homicidal people who want to kill civilians and children.
You cannot be a politician who claims to send your “prayers” and feign outrage on social media and then take millions of dollars of donations from the National Rifle Association and vote against laws that would prevent the next mass shooting.
Now, it is up to voters to ensure that you cannot be a politician and do nothing. Cowardice is why this keeps happening throughout America — over and over — again.
I want my promise to my grandson to be the truth. I want him and all children to be safe.
Can this please be enough?
Carmen Navarro Gercone is a candidate for Cook County sheriff and a graduate of the FBI National Academy.